Roland Bühlmann Music )


Over in Switzerland, guitarist / composer Roland Bühlmann continues releasing unique sounding instrumental fusion albums. Much like his 2014 album Aineo, Roland’s 2017 album Bailenas features a staggering array of intriguing music. With Roland performing all the guitars, the five-track 50-minute album features several drummers who add some fine powerful grooves. Roland cites King Crimson founder Robert Fripp and Norwegian fusion guitar hero Terje Rypdal as big influences while on Bailenas, Roland reinvents 21st century guitar fusion but think electronic jazz-fusion with a postmodern Euro-centric twist. Speaking with about the unique musical chemistry he attains on the album, Roland explains, “While I recorded and produced my first album I have never thought about it. But now I think it’s prog rock with fusion and soundscape / minimal elements. So I like acronyms I found the following term: Prim-Rock: ‘PRogressive-Instrumental-Minimal’.” The closing track, “Pange Chorda” runs 18:09 and the entire album is filled with intricate, detailed tracks that make the most of Roland’s intriguing electric guitar based fusion sound. presents an interview
Roland Bühlmann

: Where are you from originally, where did you grow up and where do you live now? What other European countries have you visited and have you been to the US?

Roland Bühlmann: I was born 1961 in Solothurn, Switzerland and grew up in the near this little city. Actually, I live with my family in Oekingen, a village also in the area of Solothurn. I visited these countries around Switzerland: Germany, Austria, where my mother comes from, Italy, the country where one of
my grandfathers grew up and France. I was in London and one time in Malta. I have never been to the US so far, but I hope to go there in the future.

mwe3: What is your background in music, what instruments did you study and how long have you been playing guitar and recording? How do you stay in shape musically, both as a guitarist and a composer?

Roland Bühlmann: I come from a musical family: my father played guitar and my grandfather played mandolin, mandola, guitar, violin, double bass and clarinet. At age eleven or twelve I briefly studied trumpet, for a short time, but I didn’t like that instrument. At age 17, I began to learn autodidactic guitar and bass guitar while I played in a band. During this time I also learned how to play Mandola with my grandfather. Four years later, I sold all my electric guitar stuff, bought a classical guitar and played a few years just on this instrument before I bought my next electric guitar. In 2015 I learned to play Hanottere, a Swiss traditional instrument, kind of like a neck zither
I played over the years in several bands and with different musicians. In 2012 I was with the band Le Chaim, a Christian worship band, in a studio to record an album. I learned a lot about recording there, including editing and mixing. A few months later I bought gear to record music at home. Shaping music was, from the beginning, a mix of composing and improvisation. It's also actually when I record music. I like to record music with different instruments, to shape the music until I am satisfied with the result. Since I had tendonitis in my left hand, I had a surgery, I don’t play live because I must be careful with my hand and may not play too much. In early years I wrote most of my compositions on sheet music.

mwe3: You have some great sounding guitars on your new album Bailenas. Including a 1965 Fender Jaguar. Is there a good story behind that guitar and / or your other guitars? Do you collect guitars, pedals, amps and other gear?

Roland Bühlmann: I'm a big fan of Steinberger guitars, but I don't collect guitars nor pedals or other gear. On Bailenas I play two different Steinberger ZT-3's… by the way, two different Jaguars too. The first was a black one. Then I sold it and bought the Fender Jaguar American Vintage ‘65. After a few months I sold the Fender Jaguar and bought another Steinberger ZT-3, blue. I still have the ZT-3 blue, but all other guitars on the album are sold. The Hanottere on the album I had rented from a music shop in Lucerne. Recently I bought a Steinberger GM4S, a really great guitar!

mwe3: Tell us about the drumming and percussion on your album? Is there a live drummer on the album or is everything programmed? Are those programmers credited to playing on the Bailenas album?

Roland Bühlmann: Basically there are live drummers behind Beta Monkey Music, Drumtracks and Loopmasters, which I use on the album. You can buy loops there. That means you have for example 20 Loops 5/4 during 2 or 4 bars. Every loop you can place where ever you want including breaks, etc. And every loop is played by a real drummer, but with no credit. By the way, on my forthcoming third album, I don’t use drum loops. I play a lot of percussion on unusual instruments.

mwe3: Would you say Bailenas is a progressive rock album? It’s rare to hear a revolutionary instrumental progressive rock album but your album seems to fit into that apt description. Is your music beyond description? Not jazz, not rock, beyond fusion?

Roland Bühlmann: While I recorded and produced my first album I have never thought about it. But now I think it’s prog rock with fusion and soundscape / minimal elements. So I like acronyms I found the following term: Prim – Rock: ‘PRogressive-Instrumental-Minimal’.

mwe3: While listening to Bailenas in some tracks I hear a kind of a mix between Robert Fripp and Terje Rypdal. Are those two considered guitar influences in your life and what other guitarists, bands and composers interested you then and what artists / guitarists are you interested in 2018?

Roland Bühlmann: Yes, the early King Crimson albums and Robert Fripp were very influential for me. And a few years later, also the music of Terje Rypdal. When I learned to play guitar I played a lot of Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells and Ommadawn. Other musicians that I like are: David Torn, Ralph Towner, Jan Garbarek, Jon Surman, Egberto Gismonti. And favorite composers include: Steve Reich, Josquin Desprez and Arvo Pärt. I guess the most important music for me is the one from the renaissance composer Josquin des Prez, I like the clarity and the ethereal sound of the modal keys in his music.

mwe3: Tell us about your website It’s not your usual kind of website. The photo montage on the home page has some great pictures and a bandcamp link. Tell us about the photography / artwork on the web site?

Roland Bühlmann: I’ve been taking pictures with pinhole cameras since the early 1980s. The first abstract photos were taken in 1992 as I made apertures with several holes with them and I photographed different light sources. I had discovered a technique that enabled me to do abstract things taking pictures. I experimented further with apertures produced with different hole size, hole shape, number of holes, and the focal length varied combined with a bellow device or even 2 apertures. Meanwhile, I have around 40 different pinholes I use on a Nikon FM2. I exclusively use slide films.

mwe3: The album artwork for the Bailenas CD makes me glad artists still press CDs. My temperature dropped 20 degrees just looking at the Bailenas artwork. Tell us about your connection to Igor the artist from Russia who shot the cover art? ALSO, how did you come up with the name Bailenas for the title?

Roland Bühlmann: I'm fascinated by the Baikal lake. Years ago I found a website with photos from and around Baikal Lake. There was a striking photographer named Igor Glushko, with excellent photographs, and his name was written in Latin letters, not Cyrillic… While I like the Baikal Lake I asked him via email to buy his Photography from the Lake Baikal and the icy "mushrooms" for a CD cover, and he said yes. Bailenas is a fantasy word which I created.

mwe3: You also play the Jewish tradition instrument, the Shofar or ram’s horn on Bailenas. What track is the shofar on? Did you process it somewhat?

Roland Bühlmann: Playing is probably carry too far, I can only produce a tone on it. (lol) I use it only in the last track "Pange Chorda" at the end. I have just added a bit of reverb. On my forthcoming, third album I play another traditional Jewish instrument, the Kinnor.

mwe3: What’s been the reaction to Bailenas so far in Switzerland and in Europe? How can you, as a talented independent artist, get the word out about your album worldwide? Clearly the Bailenas album deserves a wider ear, so to speak…

Roland Bühlmann: The album has had good reviews in Switzerland and Europe, especially Germany, and all over the world. But my music and instrumental music especially isn't for everyone and selling the music isn't easy. I hope when people listen to my music that they realize that there is more that they can see with their eyes and more that they can hear with their ears.


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